NYSDOH updates social distancing requirement — how does this affect Goshen Schools?

Dear Goshen families,

On Friday, April 9, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) issued updated guidance for in-person instruction, social distancing, and the reopening of schools. You may view the NYSDOH’s updated guidance here.

The most notable and problematic points of the updated guidance occur on pages 7-8, which details the requirements for social distancing in counties with a high risk of transmission. It’s important to note that Orange County is considered a high risk transmission area based on metrics from the CDC and Department of Health.

To summarize:

  • In elementary schools, students must be at least three feet apart in the classroom. Cohorting is recommended when possible.
  • In middle and high schools, students must be at least three feet apart in classrooms ONLY if schools can use cohorting.
  • In middle and high schools where cohorting is not possible, students must be at least six feet apart in classrooms.
  • The CDC no longer recommends barriers as a mitigation strategy where physical distancing can’t be maintained. The district has already purchased and received its polycarbonate barriers and still plans to use them.  

So what does this mean for our district’s plans?

The updated guidance does not affect the plan to begin 4-day in-person learning on April 19 for Scotchtown Avenue Elementary School or the Goshen Intermediate School. However, at this point in time, we are unsure how these new requirements will affect these plans for C. J. Hooker Middle School and Goshen High School students.

As of this morning, approximately 74% of C. J. Hooker Middle School students and 64% of Goshen High School students are slated to return to 4-day in-person classes on April 19. We are working to quickly reconfigure our initial plan of action now that NYSDOH is enforcing a six foot social distancing requirement unless students are cohorted. This is difficult at the higher levels because our students’ class schedules are individualized, as opposed to the lower levels where students stay together throughout most of the school day. We are looking at all possibilities, including the utilization of larger spaces such as gymnasiums and athletic fields. At this time, plans are not definitive, but we are trying our best and looking at all possibilities in order to make the 4-day in-person learning plan a reality for our middle and high school students.

We know that the uncertainty of the situation is unsettling. We are disappointed that the state did not consult our district — or any district in Orange County — about this new guidance, and that we were not provided any notice that this guidance would even be issued, let alone very late on a Friday. We are also still waiting to hear if the Orange County Department of Health releases any guidance based on the state’s updated requirements.

Thank you for your continued patience and understanding. This situation remains fluid, and we will continue to communicate with our families as new information becomes available. I remain grateful for your flexibility and continued support.

Sincerely,

Daniel T. Connor
Superintendent of Schools